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Follow where your creativity wants to take you…it may surprise you where it goes!

Start with one sentence said by one character…and that will lead you to another…and another…another scene, another character, another story…

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How the f*ck do you write so many books?

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There’s a great interview on YouTube with Stephen King and George R R Martin in which GRRM asks King “How the F*ck do you write so many books?”

The truth is, of course, that every writer is different. It takes you how long it takes you. Figure out who you are as a writer and how long it takes you to get there. And write you.

I wouldn’t want a book from GRRM that only took him 6 months to write…

As for King, he has a great story about JK Rowling…and truly understanding what it is that you do as a writer.

 

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***WARNING: Major Spoilers ahead for Stranger Things 2*** Proceed with caution.

Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister, AKA the DREADED episode that, at first, feels out of place. At first. And I think that’s how we’re supposed to feel as an audience. Eleven is out of place, she’s looking for herself, she’s looking for connection. How could she not belong with someone who has her shared past, someone who understands what the “bad men” did to her? Her “Lost Sister”. But as the episode progresses El finds herself further and further out of place. She will not become that from which she is running. This is where the episode shines for the writers of the show. We are feeling what El feels, out of place and in the end wanting to return to Hawkins, on edge about what is about to happen with Mike and Hop.

Many feel the episode is gratuitous and the ratings are obnoxiously low for the series on IMDb. Especially when compared with the other episodes in the series – “The Lost Sister” receives an average of 6.4 (out of 10) where as ALL of the other episodes in the entire series range from the mid-eights to the mid-nines (8.4 – 9.6.)

From a writing perspective, I believe those low scores are based on the episode’s placement alone. I would argue that if the writers/producers had placed “The Lost Sister” before episode 6 it wouldn’t have slowed the pacing as much and therefore the episode would have been better received and ultimately understood by the audience. As I’ve said to my writers more than once, there is always a door number three, a solution to any problem you come across as a writer. You just need to figure out what the answer is, and for me that would have been reversing episodes 6 & 7.

As an added bonus, the change of placement not only wouldn’t have interfered with the suspenseful cliffhanger ending of episode 6, but I actually think it would have enhanced it. Not knowing specifically what El’s void flashes, of Mike and Hopper clearly in trouble, were about would have added to the suspense and the anticipation of El’s return to Hawkins amplified. There would also have been more distance between El’s bus ride and the moment she finally appears to save the day. The audience would have been so caught up in the action of the DemoDogs attack that when she did appear it would have been a complete surprise (or at least more of one). Again, adding to the suspense rather than slowing the pace. And the writers would still accomplish what they set out to do with this episode – putting the audience in El’s shoes, out of place, wanting to get back to Hawkins and save her friends and also showing us more than just a glimpse into the future growth of El’s character and her powers. Just watch the episodes in reverse and you’ll see what I mean.

Placement aside, “The Lost Sister” episode is pivotal in the development of El as it delves deeper into her powers and gives us clear insight into the future of the show. Not necessarily because there are more children with powers, but because of the contrast in the way that El and Kali view and use them. El’s powers are an extension of who she is; she only uses her powers when there is a need, and the need is usually involves saving someone she cares about or using it in her own self defense. We even see her earlier in the season cleaning up the cabin, after her confrontation with Hop, only using her powers to do the heavy lifting and not to sweep up the glass. Unlike Kali who uses her power for revenge, a revenge which endangers Kali, and her band of outcasts, at every turn. Kali’s need for revenge has consumed her, it has made her the weapon Dr Brenner intended her to be.

What also struck me is that Kali uses some of the same tactics as Dr Brenner uses to get El to use her powers, only this time for Kali’s purposes, something that El (at least at this point) hasn’t even thought about. Kali goes so far as to manipulate El’s own fears of Dr Brenner using them against El in order to try to convince her to stay. These coercive strategies make Kali no better than Dr Brennen.

That clear manipulation becomes part of the breakdown of Kali’s and El’s relationship. Although it is never explored in this episode (and maybe we’ll see some of this if Kali returns for any future seasons), El realizes that Hawkins is home, in part because unlike with Kali, everyone she’s come into contact with in Hawkins (outside of Hawkins Lab) has never forced or manipulated her into using her powers. And while they did ask, she was always in complete control of the choice to use them. The contrast with Kali’s emotional manipulation and the fact that her friends in Hawkins need her, ultimately shows El who her real friends are.

And that is what is key with this episode. It needs to be there for the sheer fact that it shows El where she truly belongs, where she WANTS to belong. Hopper may be imperfect but he cared for El when she had no one else.

Which brings me to the one part of the episode that doesn’t ring true. Kali makes the statement that El’s “policeman” stops her from using her gifts, to which El nods. I re-watched the entire season looking for the clues where Hop may have stopped her from using them or told her not to. This never occurs. Even when she’s screaming, breaking every window in the cabin, Hop never references the use of her powers. In fact, in a later scene you can see him struggle with their argument, but not because of her powers, and not once does he tell her or even imply that she shouldn’t be using her powers. He hasn’t take away her Eggos or the TV because she used her powers, but because she threw a “bratty” tantrum. So I’m still not sure why El nods to Kali in this conversation. Was she just going along with Kali to see where the conversation was going? Or just lying in order to feel more connected to Kali? For me, this is the only plot hole in the episode and again, maybe something that will be explored further in future seasons.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly the creators of Strangers Things, Matt and Ross Duffer, admitted that they knew going in that the Eleven centric episode would be a risk and one that they were willing to take. “Eleven’s journey kind of fell apart, like the ending didn’t work, without it.” I would agree. This episode is pivotal in the evolution of El, her powers and eventually I think even farther reaching than just returning her to Hawkins to save the day. I think in the seasons to come we’ll see just how important this episode was for El’s journey.

I hope The Duffer Brothers continue to take these kinds of risks, that’s what great writers do. Even when they miss (slightly), Stranger Things 2 far surpassed any expectations I had for the season. We love the characters and any time spent on their journey is time well spent, and wherever the writers take us, we’re just along for the ride.

In the end, that’s all writers ever hope for…

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Timing is important

You may know the song or the scripture it comes from, “…to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose…” this came to mind today when an author I follow posted in her group that “timing is important with books.”Timing is important_2

Yes! With books and so many other things….it has many names, serendipity, synchronicity, the right time (divine timing), and coincidence.

There are so many books that I read at the right time, books that the timing was important. Mud Vein by Tarryn Fisher is a memorable one. Mud Vein changed the way I connected with books; I viewed reading and writing from a completely different perspective after that book. (You can read my post love letter to Mud Vein here.)

I first noticed the importance of timing when reading when I was fresh out of college and taking the train to visit relatives in Chicago and to attend my first RWA literacy signing (imagine 500 + authors wall to wall signing books…with all proceeds going to literacy, check them out at RWA.org). Months before this I had picked up one of my favorite author’s new hardcover book (yes, because I was a HUGE fan I splurged on the hardcover!!) I still hadn’t read it. I had tried and tried again and just couldn’t get into it. I thought I was going to have to skip it and just chalk it up to bad writing…

BUT…

Here I was getting ready for a 5 hour train ride picking out my books for the trip (this is BEFORE ebooks…or at least before devices for ebooks were invented so physical books had to be planned ahead for the trip.) I was ready to try again with the spy-novel-romance book I had been trying to read for months. The night before, I forced (yes, forced) myself to read the first couple of chapters to get myself going.

The train was full and I ended up sitting next to a young gentleman who was nearly as well read as I was (he had just finished reading Tuesday’s with Morrie – one of my all time favorite books) and we chatted for the first portion of the trip (I wasn’t all that excited to get to my book, not at all like me…) he was heading to DC and then off to Germany for some sort of “training” and then he asked where I was headed…but my mind kept going back to the book I had started the night before…hmmm…the hero of my book was a former CIA agent….why would someone take the train from Wisconsin to DC only to fly to Germany?

At this point if you don’t know me, I have a VERY active imagination! So my mind was racing with all sorts of things between the book and the gentleman sitting next to me (whose name just added to the mystery – Sam Adams – yep, he was named after a beer! Couldn’t he have come up with a non-spyish name??!!!) Why did he have to go to DC to fly to Germany? Why couldn’t he fly out of Chicago? And his name is Sam Adams!

After that trip, I realized that had I read that book at any other time I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. It was the timing of it that made it a book that I ended up loving. It also made my trip all that more memorable. I was unfamiliar with downtown Chicago and I needed to walk from the train station to meet my cousin, Sam Adams, spy in training in my head, offered to walk with me to the corner my cousin specified. He did. And I never forgot his kindness.

I no longer force myself to read books if they don’t catch me. Maybe they will at a different time…a time when I NEED to read it. I also notice books that I am meant to read. Mud Vein kept popping up for me, it was everywhere…until I finally broke down and read it. Then it wouldn’t leave me along for another reason entirely!

But for reading (and with writing too!) there is a time and a reason and I’ve learned just to follow my heart and let the reason figure itself out….

(As I’m finishing this post Miley Cyrus is signing Younger Now, and I think, yes, timing is important. Younger Now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LX2kpeyp80)

xo,

Christina2

 

Create Fearlessly

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“I’m convinced that FEAR is at the root of most bad writing.” – Stephen King, On Writing

Don’t let fear stop you from writing, even if it’s not what others are telling you is selling, or what others might wish you to write. Did you know that Stephen King’s horror stories were initially rejected by publishers? Their reasoning was that no one was buying horror. That didn’t stop him from writing them, he persisted, eventually published Carrie, and went on to become the preeminent horror writer. Then when he wanted to write something outside of the horror genre publishers once again limited King in that they believed no one would want something other than horror from him. Personally, his “non-horror” stories are my favorite. So while publishers were fearful, King was not. He knew what he wanted to write.

Writer’s block doesn’t exist, it’s resistance which is usually caused by fear.

Don’t allow fear to box you in.

Fear is the killer of creativity.

Let go of the fear…get rid of the box…create fearlessly…

Write what you are called to write even if it’s something outside your comfort zone, outside of genre, or out of this world…you might be the next writer to create a new trend or even a new genre. Go for it, you have nothing to lose….

Create out loud ~ Live out loud ~ Write out Loud

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